Wednesday’s survey showed the Melbourne Institute and Westpac Bank index of consumer sentiment rose 2.3 per cent in February, from January when it fell 1.8 per cent.
The index was still down 8.0 per cent from a year earlier and at 95.5 indicated pessimists continued to outnumber optimists.
“The lift in sentiment this month likely reflects easing concerns around bushfires and comes despite some significant negative developments, most notably the coronavirus outbreak abroad,” Westpac senior economist Matthew Hassan said.
“That said, the full impact of the outbreak is yet to be felt locally and we may see more of a drag on sentiment in the months ahead, particularly as the hit to sectors such as tourism and education start to come through.”
The survey’s measure of the economic outlook for the next 12 months picked up by 5.4 per cent, while the five-year outlook improved by 4.3 per cent.
The outlook for family finances for the year ahead edged up 0.1 per cent but the index of finances compared with a year ago dipped 1.0 per cent.
The measure of whether it was a good time to buy a major household item lifted 2.7 per cent, though consumer spending overall remains subdued.
At 116.4, the index remains well below its long run average of 127.
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